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Sweden are in the spotlight as they prepare to open UEFA Women's EURO 2013 on home soil next week – and as one of their highest-profile players, Caroline Seger knows "something big" is happening.
The Tyresö FF midfielder, capped over 100 times, played a crucial role in inspiring Sweden to the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup semi-finals. The 28-year-old is playing a central role under national coach Pia Sundhage, appointed last year after a spell in charge of the United States, where Seger spent two seasons, and she speaks to UEFA.com about Sweden's prospects on home soil.
UEFA.com: How is the mood in Sweden?
Caroline Seger: It feels like there's something big happening, and it's only few countries that get the chance to host a championship. I hope people appreciate that we are hosting it and go and buy tickets. There's already been lots of tickets sold, but I think even more can be sold.
UEFA.com: What does it mean for you to be playing at home in Sweden?
Seger: It's a big thing for a football player. I've played in many championships, but never at home. I'm quite old now, and I won't get the chance again. It's a big thing for a football player. I am really going to appreciate this chance.
UEFA.com: What impresses you most about the team today?
Seger: I think it's the young enthusiasm that has emerged. Pia has been able to coax many new facets out of the players, which I think weren't there before. She's very good at inspiring people, and getting the best out of all the players. But first and foremost the youth and the enthusiasm, there are many players who want a place in the team, there's competition, and that's what characterises Sweden's squad right now.
UEFA.com: How has it been playing under Pia Sundhage?
Seger: It's been very positive. No matter what kind of work situation you are in, you need new voices, which Pia has brought in. There's a new energy in those who have been in the team for a long time, myself included. I think Pia has pushed us to think more football, discuss more football, and to take responsibility for our own development, and peak when it counts.
UEFA.com: Are there any concrete things you can describe that have changed, either on or off the pitch?
Seger: As a coach Pia sets the bar quite high, she demands a lot, and she is very strict in her criticism, both positive and negative. She's good at pushing, and if you haven't performed then she will tell you. I think it's an important balance, and you know when Pia tells you something then it's right. She's good at raising the spirits, and it's easy for her to inspire people. I don't know if she realises that herself, but she's very good at it.
UEFA.com: How do you think she will help the team handle the pressure and expectations ahead of EURO?
Seger: Pia has got a lot of experience, she's been national coach for a team [the US] that is under constant pressure, with millions of fans and lots of spectators, and that experience is very important. I also think we have a lot of players that have this experience, who can share that and help those who are younger and have less experience in playing in front of so many people.
We are playing at home, and that's special. I think you have to, as a team, turn that into something positive. They are actually there because of us, it's us who have the 12th player behind us. We have to ride this wave and realise what a great experience it is, and not regard it as something negative. Really be able to enjoy the moment.
UEFA.com: How important is it to get off to a good start when you kick off against Denmark?
Seger: [In the past] we have been criticised for not being able to win our opening matches, but that's over now: we've begun to win our opening matches now. It's very important to start off well in a tournament. When you check to see who will proceed, then it's both number one and two, and the best third-placed team. I don't think you should focus too much on that.
It's always special to play your neighbours, I know that having played against Norway. We know them and they know us. It always ends up being a very physical game, and I know that Denmark have a lot of younger players, and they have begun the rejuvenation of their team; eventually we will have to as well. The game will be physical, but it's an opening match and we have to get going.
UEFA.com: Italy and Finland, the other opponents in the group; what do you expect from them?
Seger: We've played Finland a couple of times, and that's the same, very physical. They have a lot of players in the Swedish league that we know, and I'm expecting the same kind of match. I expect Sweden to have more possession of the ball, and to be able to play more freely than Finland. We've played Italy many times: they are very skilled and very technical, but it's difficult to say.
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